From novice to champion, coaches mold pole vaulter into contributor - Mahone

During his tenure at Mount Zion, girls track and field coach Jason Battles has coached his share of superb athletes.

He has had his hand in helping develop some county, region and state champions. Several of his former players have gone on to earn college scholarships.

Battles would be the first to admit, that many of his former and current athletes already have the natural ability.

Then there is Roxie Carberry.

Four years ago, Carberry joined the track and field team at Mount Zion to help contribute. But the only problem was she wasn't blessed with blazing speed, great leaping ability or an extra amount of strength to help the team.

Finally, Battles introduced her to the pole vault event.

With his guidance, along with private coach Hal Fairbanks, Carberry is quickly emerging into a gifted pole vaulter. She is the two-time Clayton County champion, and is on the verge of securing some track and field scholarship aid.

"You have kids all the time that have the natural ability," Battles said. "But it is definitely gratifying coaching someone like Roxie who you get to work with from the start. As an educator, you are extremely pleased that you have had a hand in guiding someone."

Pole vaulting is not the easiest event in track and field. Along with hurdles, it might be the event that requires the most courage.

With only the aid of a pole and nerves, participants vault extremely high to clear the bar. One slip could be tragic.

But Carberry has overcome what fears she had at the beginning.

"Coach Battle taught me how to pole vault, and coach Fairbanks made me fearless," smiled Carberry.

Now, she has become somewhat of an ambassador for the event. She has already recruited a niece to take of pole vaulting. This spring, she has taken it upon herself to work with freshman Alexis Warren.

There are some parallels between Carberry and Warren's plight into track and field. Like Carberry, Warren didn't fit into the other track and field events.

But Carberry encouraged her to stick with the sport and give pole vault a try.

It has worked out.

"I'm happy for Alexis," Carberry said. "We have a lot in common. Some people think she is my sister."

And Warren is thrilled that a senior would take up so much time with her.

Carberry, an honor student, is deciding between a major in engineering or education at Norfolk State University. Judging from the way she has mentored Warren, she would make a good coach.

"Yeah, I kind of want to coach," Carberry said.

And she has great grasp on helping others.

Derrick Mahone covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Herald Daily Herald. He can be reached at dmahone@news-daily.com.